parallel parking, willy nilly

If there’s one thing that continues to puzzle me about Britain, it’s this:

There seem to be no rules governing the direction a car faces when it’s parallel parked.  I’ve been noticing this ever since I got here; I see it all the time.  The other day I happened to be walking home, rather than biking, so I was able to stop and shoot a few photos.  These two were taken on the very same block as each other!  And it’s not like it’s only in this part of town, or something.

I think I’m pretty used to the whole “keep left” business, since I do bike to work every day, and it’s in my own best interests to obey the traffic laws.  But I just don’t get this.  Will someone please explain?  It seems so inefficient, even dangerous!

While we’re on the subject of parallel parking, check out this fun NPR story (hat tip to Surabhi Gupta).


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5 Responses to parallel parking, willy nilly

  1. lynneguist says:

    It’s against the Highway Code:

    But parking is so precious here that people seem to ignore this…

  2. jeffrey says:

    Hello Lauren,

    OT, but in a larger sense not.

    Your blog brings back a flood of pleasant memories, as I was at one time an American in Oxford myself (New College, 1978-81, Ph.D. and 1982-86, post-doc). My field is history, but to be precise, history of the language sciences, so here too we have something in common. Plus, like you, I was very active in the musical life there (violin and viola).

    However, what prompts me to write is that I have a very urgent, specific question about the formation of plural ethnonyms in English. No, unfortunately I haven’t read your book, I only first came across it today. But would you be good enough to get back to me off line? Thanks.

  3. Damien Hall says:

    I didn’t know this blog existed until just now – I’ll have to spend some time reading it soon …

    I’m a British driver and didn’t even realise that parking facing in the wrong direction was against the Highway Code! But that doesn’t necessarily make it illegal, since only some rules of the Highway Code represent laws (speed-limits, meaning of road-markings, etc), while other bits are merely advice (“don’t let extraneous noise from your radio distract you from the road”).

    You don’t hear about accidents caused by people parking in the wrong direction, though, and you’re right that it is universal. I think that, if you actually had to parallel-park into a space on the other side of the road (that is, if you actually had to stop in front of the space and reverse into it), you wouldn’t do it because that would entail your car facing the wrong way in the lane and even momentarily stopping in that position, which no doubt is illegal. Many occasions of this kind of wrong-way parking are achieved by momentarily crossing the opposite-directed lane in order to get into the ‘parking area’ on the other side of the road, when it isn’t full of cars, and then backing up to another car. Then, if someone else does the same to you, it looks as if you parallel-parked into the space, when in fact you didn’t.

    Should I draw a diagram?

  4. erica says:

    you know, i’ve wanted to park like that in the US on multiple occasions, and never fully understood why i couldn’t. perhaps i’m driving on the wrong continent for my sensibilities…

  5. I believe it’s against the law to park on the right (ie, facing against the flow of traffic) at night, on certain roads at least — ones with a speed limit faster than 30mph possibly. The idea would be of course that if there is no street lighting your reflectors and headlamps are necessary to show the presence of the obstacle. You should of course always see red lights/reflectors on your left and white on the right, so parking on the wrong side would disrupt that.

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